Mental Health

Being OK on the Outside

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Being OK on the Outside

Being OK on the outside is not the same as being OK on the inside

I think most of us know that, right? To be honest, I think maybe I’m preaching to the choir on this one. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably already know that people, in general (and especially me), are really good at hiding how they’re really feeling.

And we get better at it around this time of year, right? Because it’s Christmas and we’re all supposed to be happy all the time. I love Christmas, so generally, I am pretty happy this time of year. But that’s not always the case for everyone and I do find my anxiety levels get pretty high this time of year, worrying about making sure that everyone has the perfect Christmas.

Looking OK on the outside doesn’t mean that we’re OK on the inside. Putting a smile on your face doesn’t mean you feel like smiling and laughing doesn’t mean you’re happy.

I know this is not just a mental health thing

I have friends with chronic, mostly invisible, physical health issues who are plenty good at pretending to be OK on the outside when they’re far from it on the inside. (You know who you are!)

Why do we do it? To make other people feel better? To avoid worrying them or being a burden? Or because we think people don’t really want to know what’s going on with us?

Being OK on the Outside

Have you ever been asked “how are you?” and known that what they want to hear is “I’m fine”? All the time, right? Yeah, me too. It’s not that people don’t care. It’s just that people are busy. “How are you?” is just one of those questions that people ask in passing.

A lot of the time, they’re already moving away from you when they ask it. Have you noticed that? You’re walking along, you see someone you know and, instead of stopping to have a chat, they say “Hi! How are you? How are the kids? How have you been?” and you reply “I’m fine, we’re all fine, how about you?” and they say, “Yeah, fine! We must catch up soon!” but they haven’t even stopped walking and neither have you, and you’re basically just shouting across the road at each other. So, you nod and wave and carry on walking and you know you’re not going to catch up soon. Or maybe at all. And you might not be the only one in that conversation who isn’t really fine. Maybe you’re both pretending.

How are you? is just something people say.

Not all the time, obviously. But when you’re really not OK on the inside and you’re so used to pretending to be OK on the outside, it’s easier to just assume that everyone just wants you to say “I’m fine”. So even when someone asks how you are and they really want to know, it’s easier to just keep that mask in place and pretend that you’re ok. Instead of taking the mask off and then having to put it back on again the next time someone asks.

But it’s exhausing, right? Pretending to be OK on the outside when we’re anything but OK on the inside? Maybe, this Christmas, we should give ourselves a gift and stop pretending for a bit.

If you don’t feel OK on the inside, don’t try to look OK on the outside

I’m not suggesting we all walk around sobbing or that we tell random strangers our life story, when they make polite conversation. But maybe, when people we know – who we know care about us – ask us how we are… maybe we just tell them how we actually are. I know. Mind blown, right?

Give it a try.

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